Pancras Road, London, NW1. Photo © Roger Dean 2011
London at Midnight – Henry Vigar-Harris, 1885:
This is King’s Cross. It is the centre of a foul net-work of London vice and ruffianism. Four Railway Stations are here – stations of the gay and dissolute, who glide serpent-like upon the platforms, and parade their sensual and daring visages before respectable members of society. The profligate finds here a haven for his vicious desires, and he can be seen from an early hour in the evening till early dawn, or until the recuperative powers of nature no longer lend their aid for a prolongation of their animal enjoyment. “Gentlemen” who reside in various parts of North London find this arena a very secluded spot to carry on their drunken debauch. Here, as in many other parts of London, disorderly houses of the most disreputable kind exist ad libitum, under the very eyes of the police, and wherein, night after night, a calling of the most iniquitous kind is carried on with the sanction of all the departments of officialism. Shops, with side doors which stand ajar, and small windows adorned with nondescript refreshments, and wherein you would imagine you could procure tea, coffee, or cocoa to renew your almost exhausted energies, form deceptive gateways into houses consecrated to immoral purposes. Private houses, in streets occupied by well-to-do tradesmen and City business people, are made centres of corruption into which the unwary are taken, robbed of all that’s dear, then trampled and beaten to earth by the hoofs of passion, appetite and mad indulgence. The owners of these dens are known to so quickly accumulate their ill-gotten wealth, that many of them reside in aristocratic dwellings, in high-class districts, where they rear a young family in entire ignorance of their parent’s vocation. They there guard jea1ously over the honour of their own daughters with one eye, while with the other they watch with deadened feelings the skilful sensualist as he carries out his nefarious plans, and blights the flower of innocent girlhood.
[ The photograph above is of the Stanley Building which sits within the King’s Cross Central development site. The building was constructed in the mid 19th century to house the men who built King’s Cross station and their families. It is one of only a handful of buildings to have escaped the bulldozer during the regeneration of the area and it will apparently house a Primary Care Trust facility and have a new post code, N1C, in its new life. R.D.]